Couples tabs Spieth, Simpson with Prez Cup picks

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 4, 2013, 6:10 pm

“How do you not pick that guy?”

That was U.S. captain Fred Couples on Monday night, after watching Webb Simpson get bumped from the 10th and final automatic spot on the Presidents Cup team.

But he might as well have been talking about Jordan Spieth. There was no way the popular 20-year-old phenom was going to sit this one out.

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Couples announced Wednesday that Simpson (No. 11 in points) and Spieth (No. 22) have been added to the 12-man U.S. team that will look to win next month’s Presidents Cup for the eighth time in 10 tries. The four-day event begins Oct. 3 at Muirfield Village in Ohio.

When finalizing his team, and specifically the Spieth pick, Couples said he received “great help from my team (assistants Jay Haas and Davis Love III), and probably all of the United States and every golfer out there.”

Two years ago, Couples didn’t use one of his captain’s picks on Keegan Bradley, who earlier that year had won both the Byron Nelson and PGA. Bradley turned out to be one of the revelations of the 2012 Ryder Cup, fist-pumping his way to a 3-1 record.

Couples said that decision to leave Bradley off the ’11 team “wore on me a little bit,” and when he spoke to Bradley recently, he told him, “‘Unlike what I did to you not picking you, I’m going with the young guy.’”

So continues the meteoric rise of Spieth, who a year ago was beginning his sophomore year at the University of Texas. He started 2013 with no status on any major tour, but since then he has won the John Deere Classic to become the youngest Tour winner in 82 years, finished second twice, recorded five other top 10s and amassed more than $3 million in earnings.

“I’m super stoked,” Spieth said, “and happy that when I woke up it wasn’t a dream.”

Simpson went 3-2 at the 2011 Presidents Cup but will have to find a new partner now that Bubba Watson didn’t make the team. Enter Bill Haas, another Wake Forest alum and one of Simpson’s frequent practice-round partners.

Other players left off the American team include Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Billy Horschel.

To Couples, Furyk proved the most difficult omission.

The 43-year-old will miss his first team competition since 1997. He had a 20-10-3 record in the Presidents Cup and was a perfect 5-0 two years ago at Royal Melbourne, but he also hasn’t won since fall 2010. Couples said that he informed Furyk of his decision in a text message Tuesday night, not in a phone call, because, “I just couldn’t handle it, to be honest with you.”

“It was unfortunate for him not to be chosen,” Couples said. “I wanted him on the team badly, but I just felt that Jordan Spieth had an unbelievable year.”

As for the Internationals, captain Nick Price opted for a pair of rookies, Marc Leishman and Brendon De Jonge, to fill out his squad. They were Nos. 12 and 14, respectively, on the points list. Leishman, 29, finished fourth at the Masters and has remained consistent all season, while the 33-year-old de Jonge grew up idolizing Price in Zimbabwe.

“I’ve watched (his career) with close interest over the past four to five years,” Price said of de Jonge, “and he brings consistency. He’s just a wonderful guy.”

Price said that Tim Clark, who was 11th in points, did not get the call in part because of his lack of length off the tee. The diminutive South African, who has played Muirfield Village just once in the past seven years (T-68 in 2010), has missed his last two cuts and doesn’t have a top 10 since May.

“It was probably the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make,” Price said.

On paper, at least, the Americans would appear to be a heavy favorite. All 12 players on the U.S. side are ranked inside the top 30 in the world rankings; the Internationals boast only five players in the top 30.

Following a 17-all tie in 2003, the U.S. team has won each of the last four competitions by at least three points, including a 19-15 victory two years ago at Royal Melbourne. 

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.